Tarkovsky Andrei Rublev: Cinema, Iconic Painting and the Artist

Trinity (c)2017, SJSchaffeld -c opy of Andrei Rublev 'Trinity'

Andrei Rublev is considered as one of the top cinematic masterpieces. Rubley was a iconic painter and was considered a hero in the 15th century in Russia during the time of the tatars. The film deals with the troubles of the artist’s soul and life between religion, war and cruelty, pagan rites, and his art – a commission for the palace of the Grand Prince.

Andrei Tarkosky‘s exploration of space and the human conditions of life as a deeply psychological encounter fascinates me already since my painting 1 course unit some time ago. This was reflected in my research on the sublime and on Juhani Pallasmaa’s argumentation on the embodied architecture in moving images.

Watching now Tarkovsky’s two part film Andrei Rublev (1966, 1969) and reading Angela Dalle Vacche article ‘Cinema as the Restoration of Icon Painting’, exploring the film in her book Cinema and Painting (1996:135-160) a couple of thoughts strike me:

  • Thought provoking as the film moves away from a traditional heroic history film with Rublev not in the center but more at the outside, an observer and absorber of impressions.  This off-centered perspective opens up other narratives and even a contemplative perception
  • The film is about Rublev’s ‘trinity’: ideal of brotherhood, reconciliating religion and love.
  • The artist’s struggle between religion and the artist’s soul. Not been able to find God in himself.
  • The protagonist not been able to paint the palace of the Grand Prince with a depiction of the Last Judgment as it would would ‘one more representation of punishment in the world’ (Dalle Vacche, p.146)
  • Landscape as contrast to civilization, a natural element origin of iconic painting (certainly a naturalist perspective)
  • The four elements water, fire, earth, air to transcend meaning.
  • The reverse perspective of iconic painting with the vanishing point not in the visual depth of the picture plane but on the beholder, this iconic view is translated into moving imagery.
  • Architectural elements as mean for artistic expression and transcendental meaning.
  • Comparison of the film with iconic painting, and even with Japanese haiku as Dalle Vacche relates to the sign systems of both, representing mere things as objects as they are, but still with a far deeper signification than normal semiotic systems may have. In the icon it is God being represented itself as God, not as an image of God. A truly transcendental viewpoint that Tarkovsky translated into moving imagery.
  • Doors and windows: Avoidance of windows in an Albertian sense as looking onto the world and more unprotective doorways, through which all various elements may appear.

A few images (screenshots and Rublev’s iconic painting):


It makes me wonder, how these poetic images where the visual and nature reflects the inner mental conditions of the protagonist and the artist Rublev is influencing my own practice. The film certainly strikes some cords in me as it truly resonates with its focus on reduced imagery, at times rather abstract in expression, surreal in its juxtapostion, or through a tension that moves signifacation beyond the obvious.

Also it makes me wonder how the still and the moving images will inform my further move forwards. During the last part of my UVC course unit I explored the comparison between video installations and cinema, and the contemporary practice of the ‘photofilmic’ in art. One examples that I can relate to here is Bill Viola’s  The Greeting (1995), a slow motion video inspired by Jacopo Pontormo’s painting (1528-29) Visitation. I am intrigued by the in-betweenness of still and moving images, the motion within still imagery, and the the motion inside the beholder. 


  • Featured Image: SJSchaffeld (2017) Trinity, copy of Andrei Rublev Trinity


  • Dalle Vacche, A. (1996) Cinema and Painting : How Art is used in Film. Austin: University of Texas Press.
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